How do you staff up a giant free clinic? Call in the Public Health Reserve Corps!

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October 18, 2016

It’s mind-boggling when you think about it: a pop-up clinic that provides free medical, dental, and vision care to over 4,000 people in just four days. And it’s about to happen again when the Seattle/King County Clinic opens its doors from Thursday, October 27 through Sunday, October 30, turning Key Arena into a giant clinic. This herculean community effort wouldn’t be possible without an army of volunteers, and we are proud that over 275 of those volunteers are from our Public Health Reserve Corps! They will collectively donate over 5,000 hours over those four days providing healthcare services, logistics, patient services, and interpretation at the clinic.

The Public Health Reserve Corps (PHRC) consists of people from our own community who are ready to provide surge support to the healthcare system and the health department in times of need. Some are healthcare professionals, but you don’t need to have a medical background to be a member. PHRC members assist with a wide range of activities, including boots-on-the-ground outreach, setting up facilities, social media monitoring, and radio communications.

“As federal funding for public health emergency response has decreased, our PHRC has become even more critical so that we can be fully prepared for crises and disasters,” said Carina Elsenboss, Public Heath’s Preparedness Director.

Recent examples of PHRC aid include PHRC staffing of a support center for families of victims when a Ride-the-Duck vehicle collided with a bus on the Aurora Bridge and medical support to the Colville Tribe during the central Washington wildfires.

PHRC members also provide several thousands of dollars’ worth of volunteer service to the community each month. They are a regular presence at local homeless shelters and food banks, providing health consultations and wound care. They dispatch first aid teams to Red Cross shelters whenever there is an apartment fire in the region.

Medical Reserve Corps is a national program, and the King County PHRC is one of the most active chapters in the country, with over 800 members. They have a growing shelf of national awards, drawing attention from the national leadership of the Medical Reserve Corps program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who will be on site at the Seattle/King County Clinic to see them in action.

Are you interested in joining this amazing, committed cadre of volunteers? Want to find out what types of volunteers are needed? Check the PHRC website to learn more!

Photos copyright 2015 Auston James

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.